Stress is a cause of both short-term and long-term absenteeism from work. It can also lead to a host of other illnesses that affect both our home and work lives. It is important to deal with stress, whatever the cause, as early as possible. The longer we take to address stress, the more overwhelming it becomes and the bigger the toll it takes on us and those around us. There is no reason to despair though, there are some simple ways to avoid stress getting the better of us.
Focusing on work
When we’re stressed it can feel as though we’re running around like headless chickens, only scraping the surface of everything we need to accomplish. We no longer feel in control and new tasks are piled on before we get a chance to finish the ones we’re already dealing with, but there are some easy ways to regain that control:
Keep a journal
Doing this for a couple of weeks is a really simple way to evaluate how you spend your time and to identify your stressors. With a better picture of where you’re expending your energy, you can prioritise your tasks.
Avoid trying to do too many things at once. Multi-tasking is not always the answer. Instead try focusing your energy on one task at a time, always bearing your end goal in mind. Limiting when and where you check emails, social media, and messages will help you focus.
Keep a short to do list
Create a to do list to help you focus on what needs to be done each day to complete your task. Keep lists short, manageable, and achievable …long ones will only serve to add to your stress.
Keep a tidy work-space
You may think you’re comfortable with your mess and that you know where everything is, but just facing unsightly piles every morning will automatically raise your stress levels. Organising things so they can be found easily will save you time and increase your efficiency.
Focusing on you
While we’re trying to keep bosses, partners, children, parents, and friends happy we often forget ourselves. Looking after Number One is not selfish, it is key to better physical and mental health. It enables us to better cope with daily stressors without allowing them to build up. The first step is to schedule time for ourselves into our day, or week. These are the key areas to focus on:
Set 30 minutes aside to enjoy lunch away from your desk without feeling guilty. Avoid sugary snacks and too much caffeine, as both will ultimately lead to mood swings and ebbs in your energy. Stick to protein, healthy carbs, water, and herbal teas.
You don’t need a strenuous regime. Start simply by walking a couple of times a week – it’s free and it will get you outside into some fresh air if you avoid built-up areas. Speed walking is excellent exercise and far less strain on your body than jogging or running. Or take up a fun exercise class – these days you are spoilt for choice – yoga, Pilates, Salsa, Zumba, kickboxing, spinning.
Set time aside to do something just for yourself once a week. This can be anything that brings you joy or peace, such as taking up an art class, watching your favourite programme, reading a book, doing some DIY, or soaking in the tub with a glass of wine on a Sunday night. Whatever you choose, make it clear this is your time, switch your phone off and truly enjoy the moment.
Getting enough sleep
The importance of sleep is often underestimated. This is the time when your mind and your body recharges and regenerates. Set a regular bedtime and aim for 8 hours a night. Disconnect from phones and tablets one hour before you head to bed and get stuck in to a good book instead. Avoid using your phone as an alarm, so it is not the first thing you check when you wake up.
If you’ve tried all the tips above and are still feeling overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to ask for help at work, or at home. Take a step back, slow down, take a few breaths – literally, and talk to someone you can trust. If necessary get some professional help. Often just getting a fresh perspective on something that is troubling you is all you need to help you get back on track.
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